|Location:||In the town of Korlai, Maharashtra, India.|
The Korlai Fort is an extensive military fortification primarily occupied by the Portuguese during the 1500’s. Currently, in ruins, the mighty fort stands strong overlooking the vast blue of the Arabian Sea. Built in 1521, on an extension of land (basically an island) shielding the Revdanda creek inlet, the island was once called Morro De Chaul, in which ‘Morro’ translates to a small hill, and ‘Chaul’ refers to a nearby Portuguese-Creole (a dialect called Kristi) speaking village. A great construction of its time, this fort now stands in ruins but is a fabulous piece of history nonetheless. The beauty of the surrounding hill slopes is another incentive to visit this destination.
This fort was built in 1521 by the Portuguese with the permission of the Ahmednagar sultanate. In 1521, taking advantage of the confusion in the aftermath of the death of the Burhan Nizam the Portuguese tried to take over the fort. However the sultan retaliated and sent some of his best men to reclaim the fort. Subsequently, a truce was reached in which the Ahmednagar sultanate occupied the island and no further fortification of the island took place. Only a wooden cross remained on the island as a sign of its former rulers.
However, in 1594, Abranches, a Portuguese captain with 1,500 soldiers and 1,500 natives took possession of the fort. The besieged soldiers of the Sultanate tried to block their way by putting a dead elephant at the main gate and a dead horse at the inner gate. But in the end they had to surrender. The Portuguese won the fort but not having enough men to stand guard there chose to destroy it leaving only the central tower and a battery intact.
Before its destruction, Korlai had been described by travelers as a “magnificent fortress as strong as any other in the world”. On the inland side – the only place where it was susceptible to be attacked it was protected by a ditch and could only be accessed by a drawbridge. The main entrance was guarded by a bronze lion and the highest tower by a bronze eagle. It housed 7,000 horses and as much men.
Some parts of it were rebuilt later but now had a garrison of only 50 men. The church within the fort was used for worship on Sundays and holidays. Korlai fort was also strategically very important as it guarded the mouth of the bay. Sambhaji the son of Shivaji tried to take it over but failed and had to withdraw his forces on 6 December 1687. The fort was taken by the Marathas who held it from 1739-1818.
From 1818 onward, till Indian independence, it was under the rule of the East India Company and subsequently the British.
Places to Visit on Fort:
The sight of sea waves crashing onto the rock faces from the fort top is picturesque. Korlai Fort is now a famous attraction alluring visitors owing to its enchanting atmosphere filled with historic ruins and tranquil vistas. This place is the perfect destination for photographers and nature lovers, and evenings are the best time to visit to enjoy the colourful sunset. The expanse of the fort area is quite vast, and you can also enjoy a trip to the lighthouse nearby.
This is one of the more impressive forts in the region due to the long history associated with the place. An ancient water cistern by the name of Santa Cruz is present in the northern region of the fort.
The Korlai lighthouse still operates and one can visit here from the southern gate. Remnants of the Portuguese occupation can be spotted in the unique dialect of Portuguese Creole called Kristi (still used by native Korlai village inhabitants) in the many inscriptions over the gate walls and altar (as mentioned above). The ruins itself transport you back in time and captivate your curiosity with utmost charm.
How to reach:
Mumbai is nearest airport.
Pen is nearest railway station.
Alibag is about 100 Km from Mumbai by road. Plenty of buses are available. However, the more interesting way to visit Alibag is by ferry from the Gateway of India.
Related Video (Korlai Fort):
Best time to visit:
The lighthouse is open for visitors between 4 PM and 6 PM. The fort can be visited any time of the year but the winter and monsoon months are the best time to visit.